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My Out of Control Kitchen

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It happens every August. The tomatoes get way ahead of me. I can’t keep up with the processing. I have to dedicate an entire weekend to plowing through the produce and filling the freezer.

Add to it the CSA glut.

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For $19 a week you too can be overrun with fresh beautiful vegetables. OK, so there are also some fruit shares here. They are a slight additional cost.

Lancaster Farm Fresh delivered some pretty heavy boxes this week. We got:

FIVE zucchini (seriously? in a half share?)
A bag full of baby sweet peppers
A bag full of hot Hungarian wax peppers (not pictured, more below)
A bag full of baby eggplants
Two heirloom tomatoes
Three slicing tomatoes
Four golden beets with greens
Two heads of garlic

The sugar baby watermelon was part of our fruit share. Along with more of these.

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Eight more incredibly juicy luscious sweet peaches.

I swapped those peppers. For a reason to be revealed later.

I did get this.

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Three ears of sweet corn from the swap box. You can never have too much sweet corn.

My chicken share this week was a 3.5 pound heritage bird.

As for Friends and Farms, I am glad we moved to an individual share for the summer. That way we aren’t completely overwhelmed with produce.

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This was bread and cheese week for the individual share. I picked pumpkin pecan bread from the Breadery. Ewe cream cheese from Shepherds Manor.

Spring Mix. Donut peaches. Nectarines. Sweet potatoes. Heirloom cherry tomatoes. A yellow onion. Green beans. An eggplant.

As for the protein, not pictured, we got catfish, and sirloin steak.

Definitely enough to keep us from the grocery stores for a while.

I just need to get out there and start freezing food.

Lovin’ Mondays

Back before we retired, Mondays were definitely not our favorite day of the week. Back to work. Back to the commute. The early mornings. No matter the weather. We had to get up early and return to DC or northern VA on the bus or the van.

Today was just another reminder of how we love being retired. Errands. Can be done on Mondays. No weekend rush. No Saturday lines. Need to go to Lowe’s to find extra long heavy duty cable ties. Well, let’s combine that errand with a leisurely private lunch while picking up our cellar club wines at Breaux.

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An empty parking lot. The tasting room all to ourselves. Soup from a Thermos. A baguette and some peppered goat cheese. Four bottles of our cellar selections.

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We picked up a few extra bottles, one of the Malbec and one newly released Cabernet Franc Reserve. Then, off to Frederick to stop at Lowe’s and, across Buckeystown Pike, my favorite coop, The Common Market. If you live in west county, a combined trip to the Frederick Costco and The Common Market can be done with less time getting there, than going to the east side of Columbia. A few extra miles, but less time in traffic.

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The Common Market has better prices than MOM’s, and about the same as Roots, but their bulk food aisle is amazing. Three times the size of Roots. I picked up couscous, mixed nuts, cranberries and some artichoke pasta from the bulk aisle.

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Plus, Monocacy Ash from Cherry Glen. A treat for our upcoming Valentine’s Day dinner. I will pair this cheese with whole strawberries from our freezer, which were picked at Larriland last spring.

Another special touch from the olive bar. To serve with the lamb on Thursday. Mixed marinated veggies, gigante beans and chickpeas.

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I was supposed to be picking up items to make a local/organic lasagna with my meat sauce I slow cooked yesterday. As usual, too many other tempting goodies there. Then, home tonight to pop chicken pot pies from them into the oven, and watch one of the better sunsets of late. Looks like tomorrow will be warm and clear. Can’t beat this weather.

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“The Chew” Inspired Dinner

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OK, now that I am retired, I tend to watch the noon news. A while back, I started watching The Chew, or at least I had the TV on while I was doing other things. It is The Chew that inspired this dinner.

Green Tomato Pasta and Prosciutto and Melon with Arugula

Pasta based on a Mario Batali recipe, as well as the melon salad, based on an MB carpacchio. Oh, let’s not forget the cocktail. A Michael Symon inspired Meyer Lemon Basil Fizz.

A few days ago I made the green tomato spaghetti. I still have lots of greens, and quite a few tomatoes that fall off the vines before they are fully ripe. They ended up in this dish. I did substitute some organic basil and cheese ravioli tonight, and my pesto is one of those mutt varieties. All sorts of greens. Leftovers, so to speak.

This pesto was made with carrot tops, radish greens, mint, basil, parsley, pistachios, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic. Olive oil drizzled in. I didn’t measure anything. It was all done by taste. Sometimes winging it gives you awesome food.

Then, I took those tomatoes that fell off the vines in the storms Sunday night. Sauteed them in olive oil with scallions. Added only salt and pepper.

The pasta was from David’s. A basil based organic ravioli. The salad. Made with arugula, melon and prosciutto. Mario Batali had a melon carpacchio the other day. I don’t have salami around, but had prosciutto. Clean and fresh. You can build layers of flavors using four simple ingredients. Cantaloupe. Prosciutto. Arugula. Pepper.

Melon prosciutto salad

The wine. One of our favorite New Zealand style Sauvignon Blancs from Glen Manor in Virginia. Cuts through that richness of the pesto. I had enough pesto left to keep for another meal. There will be more green tomatoes.



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Breakfast for dinner. One of the simple pleasures. Lots of things left from the fridge and a couple of eggs. Everything locally procured, except for the bread which came from High’s. But, it was Hauswald’s, a Maryland bakery. You know, that weird white bread is just different after eating freshly made good bread from places like Atwater’s. But, when the roads are all messed up and High’s is open, you make do.

The A/C is fixed. Just a capacitor, a victim of the power surge. It is now cooling down again, but dinner was quick, easy to make and didn’t heat up the kitchen too much.

More tomorrow about our clean up and some thoughts about being in West HoCo after such a huge storm.


How Did I Do on Avoiding Grocery Stores in May?

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A while back I made a resolution to avoid shopping at chain grocery stores unless I absolutely had to get something not easily found elsewhere. I also promised my hubby to clean out the pantry and freezer, and maybe he would get me a chest freezer for my summer produce and fruit.

We found the freezer at Costco and picked it up yesterday. He kept his part of this bargain and I did pretty well on my part. This March picture of the freezer shows lots of CSA and market meats that needed to be used.

I have been plowing through them and not shopping until I made a dent in it. This crock pot Tuscan style soup, made with beans, greens, new potatoes, tomatoes included chicken stock plus a smoked ham hock from the freezer.

I grilled CSA Italian sausages more than once this spring, so they are gone now.

I only set foot in Giant once, and Weis once this month. Grand total there was less than $100 together. Mostly staples and things like Mother’s Day card and Graduation cards. No produce. No meats. No seafood. I got all those things from Boarman’s, Roots, CSA, farmer’s markets, or Costco.

I also am down to only three organic pizzas in the freezer, left over from buying some packaged items at Roots before my February surgery. Turns out we didn’t need to use them.

I have to say I did a good job of ridding my freezer of processed foods. Now, to reap the benefits of my garden, the CSA, and U pick projects at Larriland by filling the freezer with summer bounty to enjoy next winter. My new chest freezer will be dedicated to fruit and veggies, and maybe part of whatever we get at the County Fair. I am thinking of getting lamb at auction this year.

I am using that last package of ground lamb from the winter farmer’s market to make kofta kebabs this weekend. My first attempt at making these. Should be interesting.

Cooking from scratch. It is far more satisfying to me to do this.

Taking this:

To this:


Summer CSA Week Three

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I needed a wide angle lens and I had to stand on a stool to get it all in the picture. This week, the box was chock full of goodies.

Twelve items. Yep, we got to the pick up site and found the boxes full of veggies. The list from the site:

A peek down into a loaded box:

I swapped the kale for a second package of garlic scapes. I want to make another batch of pesto to put in ice cube trays and save for winter cooking. Easy, and so good to use in the dead of winter.

My cost analysis this week yielded even bigger savings than the previous weeks.

Lettuce mix – 18 oz. would cost $10 at Roots. Scallions $1.69. Garlic scapes $2 a bunch X 2 = $4. Bok Choy $3.69. Spinach $3. Collards $3. Radishes $2. Turnips $2.50. Kohlrabi $3. Rainbow Chard $3. Broccoli $2.50. Total for equivalent of organic and farm raised veggies is $38.40. I pay $29.75 a week for the CSA. Again, this week’s organic haul is a bargain. Total savings for the three weeks is $21.15. In good years like this one so far, CSAs are a real bargain, but the risk of a bad year is always out there.

Did I use everything last week? All but the kale, which I swear will become kale chips Sunday or Monday. A couple of red scallions, and half a head of romaine. Everything else got used. So, I did OK in the consumption department. I will leave this post with a pic of one of the mostly local dinners I made using CSA and market foods, and a local wine.

The wild ahi wasn’t local, nor was the Pacific Red Pepper Tomato Soup that made the sauce. The ahi was braised in sauce with red scallions from the CSA, and olive oil. The bread is Atwater’s rosemary Italian. The potatoes came from the Olney market. The garlic scape pesto I made using local scapes, not local pine nuts and parmesan and olive oil. The wine, a lovely Vin Rouge from Glen Manor in VA was the perfect weight to complement the big flavors in the pesto and in the red pepper tomato sauced ahi. 2010 was a hot dry year. This wine was 14.9% alcohol but didn’t feel like it. Good balance of flavors. I saw an email from Jeff White, the owner and winemaker, that came today saying this Vin Rouge is running low. If you want a lovely wine in a Bordeaux style produced here on the East Coast, this is a good one.

I will be using more of the garlic scape pesto tonight making Israeli couscous with pesto, and a side of fresh English peas, asparagus and mint. Dessert will be fresh strawberries with buttermilk cake from the market, and vanilla ice cream, not local unfortunately since South Mountain is missing from the market.

This entire month I went to a chain grocery store once, and spent less than $50 getting staples. You can eat well in season using local markets and your CSA. I really love this time of year. The start of the fresh food season. Now, what to do with kohlrabi?


A Day Trip to Lancaster

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It was way too nice out to stay home. We decided to play hooky from yard work and spring cleaning and head out for a leisurely back roads drive to one of our favorite destinations, Lancaster.

We intended to drive by a few of the Amish barn, shed and outbuilding companies and also hit the Central Market. We got a late start so bagged the first part and just lingered on the second.

Ever since I was little my parents would take weekend drives with us, taking us to parks, cities, towns, whatever, just because they liked exploring. I don’t know when I first entered this building with them, but I was pretty small.

The building is really hidden now, as the city skyline changes around it. I keep forgetting where to turn to find the nearest parking.

You have to navigate carefully to get in this back way, but it puts your car really close so you can bring things out and wander the streets.

I did not take pics inside, as not to offend any of the Amish who don’t wish to have pictures taken of them. It is hard to selectively take pics and not get an inadvertent image. I respect their wishes so put the camera away. We hit many of our favorite stands, like Clyde Weavers for bacon and smoked kielbo.

I had to get goat cheese feta and mozzarella. These are not made by our local goat cheese purveyors and they are so good, and lactose free.

To use with the mozzarella, one of the stands was offering home grown, greenhouse ripened tomatoes. So much better looking than supermarket tomatoes, and cheaper than those sold at Silver Spring Market, or at Roots.

With the mozzarella, the tomatoes, and basil from Mock’s last Saturday, it looks like a Caprese salad some night soon. We had a snack, then wandered the new shops behind and across from the market. We couldn’t resist trying this, in lieu of making a sangria for a get together with friends. We needed something fun and low alcohol to complement spicy wings. This wine should do it. The PA wines made from fruits are fun, summertime light wines.

These two bottle packs are eco friendly, and the wines are just fun. We don’t always want heavy wines in the hot weather, and this one is a treat. The winery is just outside Lancaster, and they source the fruit from all over. This wine is slightly sweet, but the winery also makes dry varieties of wine. Nice people, a friendly tasting room, and we had a relaxing day riding the back roads of PA and MD. What we got today should tide us over until our Sandy Spring CSA starts next Thursday. We got an email today with specifics, including the first two picnics at the Amish farms near Lancaster. In May and June. Can’t wait.

Nearby Farmer’s Markets – Silver Spring

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Now this is a farmer’s market.

Silver Spring year round Saturday market is really gearing up for spring. Twice the vendors than during the winter. Lots more choices, an entire block long pedestrian and bike friendly locale, with free parking in the Wayne Avenue garage. And, a Whole Foods right across the street for those who want to do all their shopping in an urban setting.

They close Ellsworth Avenue between Fenton and Georgia every Saturday morning year round for this market. In the spring and summer, there are at least twenty vendors. The web site is not up to date as they are missing at least one that I bought from today, Our House.

By going there today, I finished an entire month only visiting a chain grocery store once. That was Harris Teeter for seafood and coffee creamer, and some citrus fruit. In my challenge to myself to eat more unprocessed foods, mostly organic, the farmer’s markets are the way to find good food at less than the organic stores charge.

Today I wanted to round out my salad items, so I found:

Hydoponic tomatoes and greenhouse grown cucumbers from Mock’s Greenhouse. They will be one of the suppliers of greens and tomatoes to the Columbia Wegmans. They already supply the Frederick store. I also picked up a hydroponcially grown baby basil plant that I brought home and put in water.

With the tomato, some goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, this will be the salad tomorrow evening for dinner.

Buying Firefly Farms cheeses there is less expensive than from other sources near here. And, they are fresher, I have found.

I also picked up a bag of rolls to have with the soups I have been and will be making this week. Atwater’s is right across from the parking garage and always does a brisk business in breads, croissants, cakes, cookies and scones.

Picked up an almond cake from Praline’s of Bethesda. Taking it to a friend’s for a birthday dessert after we go out to eat tonight.

And, as I said above, Our House Farm, of Olney returned with their lovely baskets full of exotic microgreens. They also sell at the Sunday Olney market which I frequent. Olney will open Mother’s Day Sunday. They also include artists, prepared food vendors and demos. They are not far from us, so between Glenwood and Olney, in the summer, we find most of what we need from local sources.

Today I mixed baby kale, mustard greens, arugula, endive and leaf lettuce to augment my paltry microgreens from my garden. The weather is not cooperating in their growth and we are cutting them sparingly these days.

This market is convenient to those in South HoCo. There is also a one year old market that opens again next Saturday at Briggs Chaney and Greencastle. I will be checking it out as well to see who sells there. Our markets in HoCo finally will open the following week, so I can shop locally for the next six months.

Shop Local. Support small businesses and eat fresh healthy foods (well, all was healthy except for that almond cake). Check out Silver Spring or Briggs Chaney if you live in South HoCo.


What I Scored at Boarman’s Today

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I have written before about how I love Boarman’s. Today was another of those days when you walk in and find a real treat.

21-25 count shrimp

I had to buy some. They looked so good in the case. I also picked up other meats and some bread and mushrooms to use with the beef broth I made yesterday and do a soup if it rains this weekend.

What I also love about going to Boarman’s is that one stop shopping thing. Where else can you get beer, milk and hard liquor in Maryland? I know some places in Montgomery County have beer and wine licenses, but Boarman’s also sells hard liquor.

Today I just caved in and bought some local beer.

I used the shrimp at dinner tonight. They were awesome. Check out Boarman’s. A family owned store in West HoCo.


One of Those Cooking Days & Getting Ready for the HoCo Markets to Open

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Since I got the CSA delivery yesterday, I realized I needed to do something with all the goodies, from this week and last. The freezer is bare of stocks. I used the last one for soup a week ago using chicken thighs I bought at Roots. I also had eggs galore and beets from this week.

I dry roast my beets. Washed and placed on a bed of salt. Ninety minutes in the oven for beets this size, at 350 degrees.

They will be used for something like this, using the CSA oranges and spring onion.

The eggs will go into an egg salad for lunches. Doing these leaves me with 20 eggs until the farmer’s market opens.

As for making beef stock, I chopped up the ugliest carrots, used up the celery and last week’s leeks, and the end of last week’s spring onions to make the base.

Added my herbs and plopped in the frozen beef bones bought at Wagner’s in Mt. Airy a while back. Using these bones frees up quite a bit of space in the freezer. Put water in the crock pot and crank up to high for six hours. Then, I will be working at reducing and straining all the goodness out of this stock.

I will be the first to admit that having a CSA and getting fresh veggies means more work up front. Cleaning greens, prepping veggies, roasting, and cooking takes much longer than opening a box or container and nuking it. We used to do that years ago. I am glad I have the time to do this now. Much of it can be done on weekends, and we eat lots of defrosted soups and stews from crock pot cooking.

Once all this goodness is done, the dinners and lunches will show up in posts in the next week or so. Maybe another satisfying soup like this one from a few weeks back.

If you want good organic food at a fraction of the cost of pre-packaged, you should consider one of the CSAs that deliver to Howard County. There are a number of them out there, and I find that I spend less for good fresh organic foods by subscribing to a CSA year round. From May 2011 until May 2012, I only have one week without a CSA delivery (and that will be next week).

My summer CSA starts up on May 10th, just in time to use fresh veggies for lunches and dinners. I will be picking up in Columbia this year. Just off Cedar Lane. Thursday delivery so I can still hit the farmer’s markets on Friday and Saturday to get my meats, eggs, dairy and breads. Looks like a summer with minimal grocery store visits because Howard County has a great variety of sources for fresh foods. They are updating the web page daily and adding the vendors. Check it often to see if your market day is covered yet.